I have had arguments lately with some webinar technology vendors who disagree with one or another of my tips or best practices for webinar hosts.
Maybe argument is the wrong word… "Discussion" or "disagreement" might be more accurate, as it isn't a case of rancorous hostility over intractable viewpoints, but more of a surprise that my advice doesn't match their experience or recommendations.
These disagreements almost always emerge over questions such as:
- What is the best day of the week to hold a webinar?
- What is the best time of day to hold a webinar?
- What is the recommended duration for a webinar?
- How many reminder emails should you send out, and how long before the webinar?
These questions about basic mechanics of scheduling are the most commonly asked by webinar hosts and presenters. They always frustrate me because the question is easy to formulate and understand. The data should be quantifiable. Why isn't there a short, pithy, and definitive answer?
The problem lies in the fact that the question masks a fundamental error in definition. It confuses the container for the thing contained. "A webinar" is not a definable business entity. It is merely a communication medium for conducting some kind of business. What's the best day of the week for making a phone call? How long should an email be? These are similarly unanswerable without knowing something about the purpose of the communication and the audience or participants who will be involved.
Companies like BrightTALK and ON24 collect and publish statistics from their client webinars in an attempt to find trends and suggest performance averages. And God bless them for doing so… Otherwise we would have nothing to go on at all! But like the old parable of the person who drowned in a river with an average depth of six inches, you can drown in average figures that don't apply to hidden depths in your particular webinar scenarios.
It is easy to lose sight of applications outside your own use case for webinars. B2B marketers who use webinars for business lead generation assume that everyone will want to hold webinars on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday during hours when the largest population of workers are at their office desks. But people trying to reach field sales representatives may tell you that Fridays work best, since there are fewer client sales meetings scheduled for that day. People trying to reach consumer audiences, or pushing content that is not related to their audience's place of work may have better luck on nights and weekends.
If you stage a long-term promotional campaign for your webinar, you may need more reminders, starting longer before your event. If you create a short window for registration, you may only want one reminder sent close to the start time.
Webinars targeted at a group of narrowly-targeted professionals, educating them with specifics in their field of expertise may deserve longer durations. Demand generation or general awareness webinars may benefit from being shorter.
ON24 says you should hold longer webinars because online viewing patterns indicate people tend to stay all the way through an hour webinar. BrightTALK says you should reduce your webinars to 45 minutes because that is the average viewing time. It doesn't mean one of them is wrong. And it doesn't mean either is appropriate for a particular webinar of yours. It just means that averaged across a wide range of use cases, audiences, and industries making up the majority of each provider's clientele, different averages get calculated.
Generic best practices are only a starting point. You have no idea what will work best until you try a few different approaches with quantified measurements and see what creates the best results for your webinars and your audiences.